Thursday, March 15, 2018

REVIEW: ABC's 'Fresh Off the Boat,' 'Black-ish' and 'Grey's Anatomy' (March 12-16)

Various ABC reviews for March 12-16, 2018:

Fresh Off the Boat - Episode 4.18 "Measure Twice, Cut Once"
Black-ish - Episode 4.14 "R-E-S-P-E-C-T"
Black-ish - Episode 4.15 "White Breakfast"
Grey's Anatomy - Episode 14.15 "Old Scars, Future Hearts"

In 2018, it's impossible to watch every scripted show out there. There are over 450 of them. It's even more impossible to even provide adequate coverage of some of them. Great shows slip through the cracks. Some shows take awhile to figure themselves out. So as a way for me to provide more coverage, I'll just be writing some paragraph reviews of the various shows that aired new episodes on ABC from March 12-16, 2018. Enjoy!

Fresh Off the Boat - "Measure Twice, Cut Once"
Written by Keith Heisler and directed by Sean Kavanagh

The show has told several stories previously about Jessica and Louis having different styles when it comes to making decisions. It has typically been reflected in their parenting philosophies. Jessica likes to rush into things without apologizing while Louis loves to analyze all of their choices and be wishy-washy with his decision. Because it's a familiar story, the main plot of this episode isn't as exciting as it could be. However, it's fun to see this week's story told through the prism of religion and beliefs. The family believing in reincarnation fuels a lot of the humor in the main plot. It's enough for Jessica and Louis to both have meaningful dreams once they get some gas from Marvin. It's very amusing to see Louis as a turtle and Jessica as a baby boy about to be circumcised. It doesn't change who they are. In fact, it's makes them double down on their identities. But it's enough to prove that Grandma is the wise observer they need in these moments and not Jessica's psychic who may be trying to steal Louis away from Jessica. Meanwhile, religious practices are prominent in the boys' story as well. It's fascinating to see Evan practicing a different faith. He talks about researching many religions and choosing the one that best applies to him: Christianity. He takes Lent seriously. He believes he's superior because he's making a sacrifice right now. Eddie and Emery do have a lot of fun playing with his emotions. It's all still within the realm of brotherly teasing. And it's nice that Evan doesn't ultimately fall for it. He definitely has the temptation. But it's still nice to see everything resolved with Eddie and Emery having to do Regis and Kathie Lee impressions. That's a lot of fun - even Jessica can enjoy it without having any clue as to what's going on. Of course, there's also just the random story of Jessica buying an aquarium tank for the restaurant only for Matthew to steal all of the lobsters. That's just an odd C-story that never really develops into anything. B

Black-ish - "R-E-S-P-E-C-T"
Written by Steven White and directed by Gail Lerner

The episodes of Black-ish that are interested in sparking a conversation about an important subject have often been its most successful episodes. That's what makes this one seem special - and the episode that was paired with it on Tuesday night a little lackluster. It's fascinating to see Dre and Bow confronting the gender bias of learning that Zoey and Junior are having sex. There hasn't been a whole lot of crossover between Black-ish and Grown-ish - largely due to different scheduling on two different networks. But it's nice that the knowledge of Zoey having sex now makes it back to the family and affects how Dre and Bow parent now that their kids are getting older. I didn't really like the way Grown-ish tackled this subject matter because it seemed so impersonal. It felt like the show didn't want to have a conversation about a college student losing her virginity to her first serious boyfriend. This episode manages to find a way to have a serious conversation about respect and awareness of the intimacy involved while still being a funny showcase. Sure, it goes to some extreme places as well - especially when Dre and Bow overreact thinking that Junior has just broken up with his girlfriend after using her for sex. In that moment, they aren't listening to their son. They get swept up in the emotions involved and allow their own bias to shine through even though they value the relationship they have with Junior. They trust him to make smart decisions. But in this moment, they are making it about themselves without really caring about what Junior is feeling. They rightfully get called out on that. It's such a strong main story. Meanwhile, it's just amusing to see Ruby get into a fight with another grandma who wants to spend time with Jack and Diane. She has always been very competitive. Of course, this also feels like a story the show has told before with Bow's mother getting in the way of Ruby's connection with her grandkids. As such, it does bring the overall episode down just a little bit - even though it still has a very funny conclusion. A-

Black-ish - "White Breakfast"
Written by Lindsey Shockley and directed by Rob Cohen

This episode definitely suffers from airing alongside the other one covered in this post. It's just not as strong. It doesn't really have a compelling main story. It's basically a plot the show has done many times over the course of its four seasons. Dre and Bow are always worried about how they are parenting their kids. They are wondering if they give them enough freedom to be themselves while still being very strict and teaching them about how they need how to act in the real world. Dre and Bow both came from extreme parenting and want to do better by their kids. But this story mostly feels like a chance for Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross to enjoy some hijinks for the week because they are the ones making such a big deal about Jack and Diane having more freedom to do whatever they want. It's a story that still ends disastrously for the family. Jack and Diane's big project is one of the more cringeworthy moments the show has ever produced. It's still amusing. But it's also silly to think that the project they wanted to do actually won in this big showcase. There seems to be a beat missing in the plot that explains why the troublemaking kids who had designed an app didn't emerge victorious. As such, it's a little too weird to be effective. Meanwhile, Junior and Ruby are off in their own story because they need something to do. These two episodes do have something in common by viewing Junior as sexually active. Ruby suggests that his history teacher has a crush on him. It's just awkward enough to lead to a misunderstanding. But it's verging on being creepy as well. Junior isn't sure how to react to this kind of attention. That makes sense given everything that he has done over the years. But it's still a weird story too that mostly feels disconnected without a purpose. B-

Grey's Anatomy - "Old Scars, Future Hearts"
Written by Tameson Duffy and directed by Ellen Pompeo

The first time Ellen Pompeo directed an episode last season it was this very emotional hour in which Maggie dealt with her dying mother. It was so brutal to watch but so wonderfully well handled by Pompeo. And now, her followup is a more conventional episode of the show. That's good too. Every time an actor steps behind the camera it doesn't need to be for a super important and emotional hour. Pompeo can simply join the roster of directors alongside Chandra Wilson and Kevin McKidd. That's empowering too. It just feels like this episode is trying to say something profound by incorporating flashbacks ahead of a pivotal moment. And yet, those flashbacks don't really tell the audience anything we don't already know. Earlier this year, flashbacks were used to flesh out more of Bailey's upbringing effectively as she was having her heart attack. They told a different story about a familiar character. But here, the flashbacks dramatize things from Alex, Jo and Maggie's lives that are already known. Of course, the Maggie flashbacks are the most extraneous. They have no purpose whatsoever. They just articulate that she has always been nervous and quirky when it comes to crushes and needs to lay it all out there with Jackson if that's a relationship that can work. The ones for Alex and Jo make sense because they highlight his pattern of caring for crazy women and her flightiness in the face of true commitment. As such, it's personal and meaningful when they come together in the end to get engaged. But their stories up to that point mostly feel forced with Alex being upset that Jo is applying to fellowship programs across the country. Elsewhere, Meredith probably makes the right decision in refusing to tarnish her mother's legacy just so she can get this patent. It will just jeopardize this project she's really excited about at the moment. And then, it's fascinating and surprising that Koracick is the one able to have a meaningful conversation with April about religion. It's clear that she needed that talk. And yet, becoming aware that Koracick had a child who was killed in a freak accident doesn't suddenly make him a sympathetic figure. He's still a shameless sexual harasser. This feels like the rock bottom April needed to hit in order to pull herself up and find her faith and conviction once more. B-